Falcons Defense is For Real
By: David Schiele
With this defense, the Atlanta Falcons don’t have to score a ton of points.
The Los Angeles Rams were the top-ranked offense this season. They led the league with nearly 30 points per game and ranked in the top-ten in rushing and passing yards. None of that mattered to the Falcons, who went into LA and held the Rams to just 13 points in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
The Falcons sacked Jared Goff three times and deflected 10 passes. Forcing two turnovers on downs at the end of the game put the cherry on top of this wonderful defensive performance.
Atlanta ranks in the top-ten in both yards and points allowed for the first time since 1998. Yes, 1998, the year of Atlanta’s first Super Bowl appearance.
Middle linebacker Deion Jones is the undisputed leader of this defense. He led the Falcons in tackles (91) and interceptions (3) in the regular season. His passion and competitive spirit is on clear display every game, as is his high football IQ and great instincts. Undoubtedly, he is a snub for this season’s Pro Bowl.
Lining up in front of Jones are defensive tackles, Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett. Both players make their presence felt in the trenches. Even if they don’t finish a play with a tackle or sack, they most likely disrupt that play. They did finish some plays, however, as they combined for 6.5 sacks and 57 tackles.
For years, Falcons fans suffered from watching a terrible pass rush. Kroy Biermann served as the Falcons leading pass rusher and was infamous for whiffing on many sack attempts. Now they marvel at the pass rushing team of Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley, Brooks Reed and Adrian Clayborn. All four men combined for 24.5 sacks through the first 16 games of the year. McKinley and Beasley each had a sack against the Rams in the Wild Card round.
Lastly, the Falcons secondary grew abundantly this season. After picking off Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, cornerback Robert Alford plays with more confidence. He led Atlanta with 20 passes defended in the regular season. He added two more against the Rams and only allowed two receptions in the game. His tag-team partner, Desmond Trufant, is the Falcons number-one cornerback and teams usually avoid throwing his way. When they do, it usually ends in regret as Trufant batted down 12 passes and intercepted two of them during the regular season. Strong safety Keanu Neal lines up in the secondary or near the line of scrimmage and makes his presence known with every tackle. Every hit Neal makes usually ends with a loud “ooh” from the crowd. Free safety Ricardo Allen holds down the back end of the entire defense. If the Falcons were a baseball team, Allen would be the outfielder that ensured there are no home runs. Although he is not as big as Keanu Neal, he never hesitates to make a big hit on a receiver attempting to catch a deep pass.
I will say it again; this is the best Falcons defense since 1998. And with two more wins, this defense will find itself in the Super Bowl, just like those Falcons from two decades ago.